Customers trust Carlson to keep stock legal at Last Place on Earth

One customer waiting in line Tuesday to buy synthetic drugs at Last Place on Earth rattles off the main points of a new state law that includes a growing list of chemical compounds that are illegal to sell.

Last Place on Earth
Ray Hopp, of Duluth, a customer of the Last Place on Earth, uses synthetic marijuana when he has trouble finding real marijuana. A new state law goes into effect today banning the sale of a list of known synthetics. (Clint Austin /

One customer waiting in line Tuesday to buy synthetic drugs at Last Place on Earth rattles off the main points of a new state law that includes a growing list of chemical compounds that are illegal to sell.

He even knows the nuance of the statute that goes into effect today, the ability for state officials to more quickly ban the chemicals used to replace those made illegal.

Another customer presents almost mock indignation when learning about the latest set of rules regarding synthetics and their makeup, using an expletive to denounce the whole legislative catch-up process to fully ban synthetics.

In short, the well-versed queue of people found at the controversial store on Superior Street will be back. They won't be defying the new law, they say they'll simply be trusting that owner Jim Carlson is selling legal products.

Carlson said Tuesday that all of his products will be legal. He pulled out the sheet that comes with boxes shipped to the store showing the illegal chemicals it does not contain.


"We'll be open. We'll be selling," Carlson said.

Carlson said he has a plan for the new mechanism that allows the state board of pharmacy to more quickly ban chemicals without having to wait for a legislative session to pass a new law.

"They have to give notice," Carlson said. "And all you need is 100 signatures to contest a ban."

His attorney said that the appeal process could take up to three months, buying more time to sell before a ban.

The law states that the board needs to provide a 30-day notice period and provide a public hearing.

Carlson has reason to stay in line with the new law. It makes it a felony offense to sell illegal products.

He said he's read the new rules and is well versed on them.

"I basically need to change the chemicals twice a year," he said.


Carlson said his customers are obviously spooked after the federal raid last week. Everyone in the store was told to get on the floor. Drug Enforcement Agency agents and local police executed the raid on a warrant and 20,000 units of what police suspect is illegal synthetic drugs were taken along with guns, money and vehicles.

Carlson, who was out of town during the raid, said the agents took all of the surveillance video the multiple cameras in the store captured. He had wanted to provide the footage of the raid to local media outlets to show how unnerved his customers were by the intensity of the raid.

The Duluth Police Department did not return phone messages left by the News Tribune seeking comment on how the new law would be enforced in Duluth.

Carlson said he knew some kind of raid was coming last week but said he can't be sure if something might happen today under the new law.

Police officers have been assigned to the area around the store to keep people moving and sometimes talking to customers, Carlson said. He said some of the customers have been harassed.

"They tell them that just coming into the store is probable cause," Carlson said.

There was talk of getting some private security for the block to ease the loitering around the store, Carlson said, but the more constant presence of police has that idea on hold.

He is still going through the legalities of the raid last year by Duluth police. There was a court hearing on it Tuesday.


He called the efforts to shut down his store another version of "reefer madness," referring to the often spoofed public relations efforts in the early part of the 1900s to demonize the use of marijuana.

"It's incense madness," Carlson said. He repeated his mantra about legalizing marijuana to end the discussion about synthetics.

An inability to get marijuana is what brought Ray Hopp to Last Place on Earth on Tuesday. Hopp moved to Duluth from Madison in February and had never heard of synthetics before being told about Last Place. Like others, he now uses synthetics as a cheap alternative to real marijuana.

But he said he'd rather be smoking the real thing. He said the synthetics make him feel he's "tripping" compared to the more manageable and mellow high from marijuana.

"Which I prefer," Hopp said of real marijuana.

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